Most wheat farmers in Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states said they are abandoning wheat cultivation for other crops because wheat has of recent become a major source of misfortune to them due to what they claim was the federal government’s insincerity on wheat policy.
This is despite the setting aside of N922 billion by the federal government to mop up the 7,000 metric tonnes of wheat in the country.
In Jibia, Katsina State, Bakalori in Zamfara State, Goronyo in Sokoto State and Argungu in Kebbi State, wheat farmers said the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, urged them to embark on large scale production of wheat with the promise that government will buy up the crop from them but that he failed to redeem his pledge several months after harvest.
In all the places mentioned, the story is the same; farmers had abandoned wheat production for many years thereby raising the import profile of wheat.
Worried by the dependence of bakeries and confectionary companies on imported wheat for their raw materials, the minister called on farmers to commence mass production of wheat promising them a ready market for the crop.
In Jibia irrigation project where farmers adhered to the minister’s call and produced large quantity of wheat, the farmers complained that no government official came to buy the commodity from them leaving their harvest to rot. They said they would not embark on wheat production again.
The state AFAN chairman,whois also Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Alhaji Yau Umar Gwajo-Gwajo, said most wheat farmers in the state are abandoning wheat production and going into beni-seeds production which, he said, is more lucrative.
The Secretary of Water Users Association of Bakalori irrigation project, Alhaji Aliyu Zaki Mafara,also said the minister visited Bakalori and addressed farmers. “He told farmers to produce wheat and that he will come and buy up everything. We harvested the wheat in January and February of 2013. We kept the wheat till June but he did not come to buy. The wheat started spoiling and farmers needed money.
“We met him in Gombe during an agric event where we raised the issue. He showed his anger that the chairman of wheat value chain should have come and bought the wheat long ago. Not too long after, officials came from Abuja to buy up the remaining 400 bags left.
“They bought the 400 bags promising to take the wheat to Kano, convert the grains to seeds and return it back to us to replant. We expected the seeds to be supplied to us between October and November but they did not bring it until in December and they returned only 250 small bags instead of the 400 big bags they took,” he said.
In Goronyo, a major wheat farmer, Alhaji Isa Takakume, said the non-inclusion of wheat in the guaranteed minimum price recently released by the federal government is an indication that the government is not willing to encourage wheat production in the country.
“My anger is the way the minister made us to invest in wheat production when he knew they were not coming to buy it. I was fortunate to have planted it alongside some maize. I had to fall back on the maize. But the wheat was a mess,” he said.
National President of AFAN, Engineer Kabiru Ibrahim, said companies are avoiding locally produced wheat to the imported one because of its low quality.
He said: “Now if you take wheat for instance, as I told you I have a bakery. Most of the wheat that is produced in Nigeria does not rise when you make flour with it for bread or confectionaries as much as the American wheat.
“I believe something is wrong with the seeds that we get. Probably we should look at the seeds. As to the market, you see, we will go back to the purchasing power of a typical Nigerian. I wonder what this rebasing of the economy and economic improvement or whatever really means. For me if you tell me that there is growth in the economy and the people are hungry, people are looking for food, people are complaining everyday about money, I wonder what it is. If you have an economy that is larger than South Africa’s in size, but intrinsically its value to the people is not there, then it doesn’t make sense to me.
“You should not rebase the economy when the majority of the people are hungry. They have no purchasing power, they have no money, they don’t do anything, and they don’t eat well. The potentials of agriculture to Nigeria are that, we should be able to get back to when agriculture was the mainstay of our economy. We should look at it as an industry that has a lot of potentials and invest properly in agriculture. Invest in people as well, because it is only when you are happy that you eat well,” he said.
Surely, Nigeria cannot live on imported wheat, just as a lot needs to be done by those in authority to rebuild confidence in farmers to resume wheat production with the zeal they started before the ‘executive’ disappointment.
(Source – http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/nigeria-why-farmers-are-deserting-wheat-production)